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This was largely an experiment in techniques.  I found several things that didn’t work so well, and a few that did.

A study in CABThe lines aren’t too bad, but the wreath is frankly dreadful.  I think the technique I used on the bottom half (which seems to raise it) worked better than the mule’s foot tool I used on the top half (which pressed it down), but was less defined and just generally muddy.

A study in CAB, closeup on tools

Seriously, this is probably the ugliest thing I've ever posted here.

Seriously, this is probably the ugliest thing I’ve ever posted here.

I’ll keep experimenting.  I definitely need to figure out a better way to do the wreath before I attempt this “for real.”

One of the biggest tricks, particularly when you’re dealing with military heraldry-type stuff, is figuring out your order of operations. If you don’t figure out which things are on top of which and what order you need to do things in, you can end up re-tooling the same few square millimeters of leather several times, and it ends up looking terrible.  I need to acquire some smaller punches to get into the real small spots.  I also need some non-textured (or minimally textured) heads for times when objects are superimposed (e.g. the bayonet over the grenade) and I don’t necessary want to shade one thing while bringing up another.

Re: the subject matter, the Combat Action Badge is basically awarded to any soldier with a pulse who performs honorably under hostile fire.  Ours was awarded for a mortar attack that was so ineffectual, we hadn’t even realized at the time we were in danger.  Of course, being the Army, by the time the paperwork caught up and awarded us our CABs (six months later), we’d been in half a dozen other, much more interesting firefights.

[Addendum: The CAB is appropriate for all but combat medics and infantrymen, who each have their own special badges for the purpose.  The criteria is the same, except those are specific to qualified medics and infantrymen (respectively) performing duties in those capacities.]

I did this in the hotel in Maryland.  I’m sure my neighbors hated me. (taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap)